Scientists have discovered a new species of Pterodactyloid in Northwest China. It’s a great piece for the paleontology puzzle, but also interesting for those of us who wonder about cryptids, especially giant birds still being seen around the USA. Let’s see how this fits together.
What: New species of pterodactyloid discovered and named “Kryptodrakon progenitor.” (Fossil segments seen to the right.)
Where: Found in Northwest China in 2001 by Chris Sloan
When: Believed to have lived 163 million years ago during the Middle-Upper Jurassic boundary
Stats: Wingspan of the fossil found measures 4.5 feet.
Though Chris Sloan found the fossil in 2001, recent scientific study has brought new information to light. This new research was conducted by the team of Brian Andres (paleontologist at the University of South Florida), James Clark (George Washington Columbian College of Arts and Sciences) and Xu Xing (Chinese Academy of Sciences). They were the ones who named this new species Kryptodrakon progenitor.
According to Chris Liu (program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences), “This finding represents the earliest and most primitive pterodactyloid pterosaur, a flying reptile in a highly specialized group that includes the largest flying organisms. The research has extended the fossil record of pterodactyloids by at least five million years to the Middle-Upper Jurassic boundary about 163 million years ago.”
Pterodactyloids aren’t actually considered dinosaurs. They are described as “close relatives” of dinosaurs that went extinct with them around 66 million years ago.
This new species seems to have lived and evolved in terrestrial environments (fossil pieces assembled to the left). Whereas the other, larger species of these creatures all seem to be associated with marine environments.
This new information sheds an important light on the evolution of pterodactyloids: Other species of these creatures had narrower wings, better for navigating marine environments. But this one shows a wider wing and body shape that enabled it to move differently.
Dr. Andres explains it this way, “He (Kryptodrakon progenitor) fills in a very important gap in the history of pterosaurs. With him, they could walk and fly in whole new ways.”
In recent years, the scientific community has learned much about the correlation between wing shape and environment in modern birds and bats. They’re seeing this same correlation in the development of wings in pterosaurs. (Artist’s rendering of Kryptodrakon progenitor.)
This new research reiterated that our modern birds evolved from dinosaurs, not from pterosaurs. The article strongly states, “Pterosaurs, however, are not the ancestors of birds – those are the dinosaurs – and scientists still believe that pterosaurs did not evolve into birds or other modern animals that humans would know.”
I highly recommend this 8 minute video about Pterosaurs – very interesting, especially the parts that describe the different wing adaptations and ability to fly among those creatures. Keep that in mind for later.
Changing Gears to Cryptozoology
OK, so there is a new species of pterosaur filling in more of the fossil record. Pterosaurs died out with the dinosaurs, and modern birds did not evolve from them. Fine.
Now let’s turn our thoughts to the giant birds being seen around the USA in recent years.
In a previous article, I shared the facts as we know them about giant flying birds being seen around the United States. For more on that, see this article:
From what I’ve read, the main argument from the scientific community is that giant birds would have trouble flying because of their size. A robin can take off from the lawn easily because it is small and lightweight and only needs small wings to generate the lift to get airborne.
But if something like Argentavus magnificens (left) tried to do that, its humongous wings would have to lift an estimated 150 pounds to get that creature airborne. That’s much more difficult to do. If you’ve got wings that big, what do you do with them when you’re not flying?
For this reason, scientists have speculated that Argentavus magnificens needed to take off from a high perch, like a mountain top. Then it could drop down and pick up its prey. It probably relied on wind patterns like the warm thermals to lift its huge body back up into the air and back to its perch.
Having a huge bird that is able to take off and land on the ground, picking up prey and getting airborne again, doesn’t seem possible. How would it have to be engineered?
That’s the main problem when considering these huge birds (or some descendant). However, the new species of pterodactyloid (see comparison to the right) shows us that nature will adjust and enhance previous designs so an animal can adapt to a new environment (e.g., terrestrial vs. marine).
When you consider what we’ve learned from the video above about the wing size and lift capabilities of pterosaurs, it seems like nature will overcome and adapt as needed, so larger birds that look like they can’t possibly fly, do.
I’m wondering, especially as these giant bird sightings are continuing through today (at least in Alabama), if nature hasn’t found a way to get these super large birds airborne despite the doubts of the scientific community.
There’s no hard and fast answer here. I’m just wondering and speculating. As always in cryptozoology, it’s going to take some excellent evidence to get the attention of researchers. If someone could get an excellent, clear photo of these birds, or video – especially against a backdrop that we could measure, that would be a huge help! Finding a carcass would probably be even better because then we could get some DNA from it.
What do you think? Have you seen any of these birds?